Latino and Hispanic students are a rapidly growing demographic who face many unique challenges and opportunities in education. For many of these students, attending college is often not economically feasible, which means they may not pursue higher education due to a lack of financial resources.
However, due to the rapid growth of this population, as well as a desire to increase representation in higher education and the job market, many different resources and scholarships are becoming available to help Latino and Hispanic students afford college.
In this resource, the demographics of Hispanic and Latino students will be explored, as well as the many resources, scholarships, and other programs that are available to help these students achieve college graduation.
Hispanic and Latino Education Statistics
The Hispanic and Latino population is the largest minority group in the United States, totaling about 57.5 million people according to 2016 Census Bureau data. However, it’s important to understand that Hispanic and Latino people, although often grouped together in statistics, are not the same.
The terms Hispanic and Latino (Latina or Latinx) refer to two separate groups of people who are similar but not interchangeable. As noted by Hispanic Network Magazine (HN), Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and are descended from Spanish-speaking populations. Latino/Latina (or Latinx as a gender neutral alternative) refers to descendants of people from Latin America, which can include Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
Regardless of their unique differences, both Latino and Hispanic groups are often lumped together in research studies and statistics. In many ways, they may share similar socio-economic barriers, such as limited access to financial resources or shared experiences of marginalization. Many Latino and Hispanic families struggle with poverty, and nearly 34% are believed to be immigrants in the U.S., some of whom face additional challenges surrounding potential deportation or lack of protection despite Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
However, this population is growing rapidly, and many Hispanic and Latino students are succeeding in high school, college, and beyond.
How Many Hispanic and Latino Students Attend and Graduate College?
According to a 2017 report on Hispanic school enrollment trends by Pew Research, the high school dropout rate for many Hispanic and Latino students has decreased dramatically over the years, and college enrollment has been steadily increasing. As noted by Pew Research, 47% of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanic or Latino individuals (or 2.3 million) were enrolled in college in 2016; up from 32% in 1999. This 15% increase in admissions was the highest among all reported ethnicity and racial groups, which shows the dedication and interest that many Hispanic and Latino students have in higher education.
Graduation from College or University
Additionally, graduation rates are continuing to hit all-time records for Latino and Hispanic students. In 2012, Pew Research shared these Hispanic student graduation statistics: “The Hispanic share among degree recipients from two-year and four-year colleges has also reached a record. In 2010, 8.5% of all bachelor’s recipients were Hispanic, up from 8.1% in 2009. Among all associate degree recipients, 13.2% were Hispanic, also a record.”
Representation in College
Although this research is promising, another 2016 Pew Research report found that many Hispanic and Latino students were lagging behind other groups when it came to obtaining a four-year degree, and only 15% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Additionally, representation in enrollment is still lacking for many Latino and Hispanic students despite efforts to increase diversity on university campuses through affirmative action initiatives, as the New York Times noted in a 2017 story on underrepresentation in top colleges. This is in part because of all Hispanic and Latino students who pursue higher education, nearly half (48%) prefer to attend public community colleges, junior colleges, or trade schools due to the lower cost of tuition.
Student Loans and Debt
In turn, Hispanic and Latino students are significantly less likely to struggle with student debt; overall only about 22% of Hispanic or Latino households have student loan payments, according to a 2014 Pew Research study. Comparatively, nearly half (42%) of white households have student debt, while 40% of black households have student debt payments.
However, for those who are interested in pursuing higher education with an accredited four-year college but are lacking the financial resources, there are plenty of programs, support systems, and scholarships available to explore. Two-year programs can be beneficial for advancing your career, but as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, each level of degree achievement has the potential to increase your income and decrease your chances of unemployment significantly.
Financial Aid for Hispanic and Latino Students
Tuition costs can often be intimidating, especially when considering accredited four-year universities or colleges. However, financial aid can provide significant fiscal support to students interested in attending college — which is an investment worth making.
Understanding financial aid — both the options available as well as how it functions — can help students plan for their future in higher education. Luckily, there are plenty of options available for qualifying students, including grants, loans, and scholarships.
FAFSA for Hispanic and Latino Students
When it comes to finding out what financial aid a student can qualify for, the first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Additionally, contacting a college or university’s admission office can be an important step, as it can help students understand their options and provide guidance on how to complete the FAFSA application.
Basic eligibility for FAFSA includes demonstrated need for financial aid, maintaining satisfactory academic progress, a Social Security number, enrollment or intention to enroll in the upcoming academic year at least half time, and more. The U.S. Department of Education has also created a few specific resources for Hispanic and Latino students aimed at helping them navigate the FAFSA and college application process.
FAFSA is not available for students who are DACA recipients or undocumented, as it does require a Social Security number. However, for students who were born in the U.S., but may have undocumented parents, the FAFSA is still available, as a parent’s legal status does not disqualify students. In general, the only information needed from parents will be their annual income to prove financial need.
Resources for all Hispanic and Latino Students
Regardless of degree path or desired level of education, there are many organizations and nonprofits aimed at helping Hispanic and Latino students succeed in college. These organizations may be able to provide financial support through scholarships or educational support through fellowship programs, internships, or other student resources. Additionally, some groups may be able to provide legal support for students who experience discrimination.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund was founded in 1975 to empower and promote higher education for Hispanic and Latino students in America. It provides scholarships and other support services, such as workshops, college preparation courses, college camp programs, and more.
The National Hispanic Institute is dedicated to empowering future community leaders within the Hispanic and Latino community. This group provides summer camps, internships, debate courses, and leadership programs for students in both high school and undergraduate college.
LULF is a community-based organization dedicated to the advancement of Latino and Hispanic individuals through high school, college, and beyond. LULF provides scholarships to those in need of financial assistance, as well as career readiness programs and college access assistance to Latino, Hispanic, and first generation students through its Y Tu Tambien program.
Latino Resources offers student success resources for Latino and Hispanic students interested in pursuing college. These include scholarships, FAFSA assistance and financial aid courses, essay workshops, and transition networks for students shifting between high school and higher education.
HHF was founded by the White House in 1987 as a nonprofit aimed at helping identify, inspire, prepare, and position Latino and Hispanic leaders in the classroom, community, and greater workforce. It offers leadership and workforce development programs, as well as highly acclaimed programs such as Code as a Second Language and a STEM symposia through its Latinos on Fast Track (LOFT) program.
CHCI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization aimed at providing educational resources and leadership development programs to emerging Latino or Hispanic student leaders in the community. It offers fellowship programs, a virtual leadership institute, and conferences for future Latino and Hispanic leaders.
HACU is dedicated to Hispanic higher education in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain. Overall, HACU has 470 partner universities, and helps support Hispanic-serving institutions, or HSIs. According to its site: “Thousands of young Hispanics benefit from HACU with internships, scholarships, college retention and advancement programs, precollegiate support, and career development opportunities and programs.”
General Scholarships for Hispanic and Latino Students
The HSF Scholarship is intended to help students of Hispanic heritage to obtain a college or university degree. It is available to undergraduates, high school seniors, community college students transferring to a four-year college, and graduate students. All majors are eligible, but there is an emphasis on STEM majors.
The LULMEL scholarship was created to provide financial aid to Latino students who advocate for and empower their own communities, whether internationally or in the United States. To be eligible, students must be attending an MPOWER partner university.
The LULMDS scholarship was created to increase access to higher education, specifically for DACA students who face unique hurdles in the U.S. To be eligible, students must be attending an MPOWER partner university.
The Latino Resources Scholarship Fund was created to invest in Latino students who demonstrate academic excellence, civic engagement, financial need, and leadership potential within their community. The fund is intended to help students complete their degree and promote civic engagement post-graduation.
The HACU IES Abroad Scholarship is intended to aid students financially who are attending qualifying Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and are planning to study abroad for a summer, semester, or full year. Priority will be given to Federal Pell Grant recipients and first-generation college students.
The HACU Scholarship Program is a partnership program that HACU holds with its public donors, including Cafe Bustelo, Ford, Oracle, Miller Lite, and Coors Light. There is a list of scholarships available on its site, each with differing requirements and award amounts. However, all scholarship applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible. Students must currently be attending a HACU-member college or university in the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
The Mexican Studies Scholarship Fund by CUNY is reserved for highly motivated students interested in advancing the Mexican and/or immigrant community. The selection criteria is based on academic excellence, financial need, and a commitment to serve the Mexican and/or immigrant community in New York.
This scholarship is reserved for minority students in need of financial assistance to pursue any degree in their undergraduate years. Additionally, there is a Continued Scholars Program that is available to graduate students pursuing STEM-based degrees, public health, or teaching.
LULAC offers multiple scholarships for Latino students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees. Each degree has specific award amounts and requirements.
Resources for Hispanic and Latino Students in Business and Communications
Business and communications are desirable degrees to pursue, and students who are interested in these programs may find a plethora of potential career opportunities after graduation, including marketing, analytics, and business management and ownership.
Within the business sector, Hispanic-owned small businesses are having a major impact on the overall economy. As CNBC noted in 2018, Latino-owned businesses are “turbocharging” small business growth and contributing over $700 billion to the U.S. economy. Overall, an estimated 4.4 million businesses are owned by Latinos in the U.S.
Additionally, the Small Business Association has found that more small businesses are owned by immigrant Latinos than by U.S.-born Latinos, and that the main barriers to business growth for Latino owners was lack of wealth or capital, as well as limited education. Pursuing a degree in business can help build a strong foundation to further grow Latino and Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S.
For Latino and Hispanic students who may be interested in this degree path, consider the following four-year degree programs:
- Online Business Degrees:
Scholarships for Hispanics and Latinos in Business and Communications
This fellowship is reserved for those pursuing a doctorate in accounting, and minority students can receive up to $12,000 for full-time accounting scholars who demonstrate significant potential to become accounting educators.
ALPFA awards 39 undergraduate scholarships, three graduate scholarships, and one post-graduate scholarship for Latino students across the nation.
ALPFA awards this scholarship to Latina women pursuing a graduate degree program in accounting, finance, business, engineering, and related fields.
LULAC and LNESC have partnered with various companies and grassroots organizations to provide scholarships to Latino and Hispanic students in need. These scholarships have varying criteria, and some may be specific to certain degree paths, while others are open to anyone pursuing a degree.
This scholarship (funded by MillerCoors) is offered to Hispanic and Latino students over the age of 21.
Offered to undergraduate sophomores or juniors, this scholarship is also a summer internship for minority students who uphold the business standards of Goldman Sachs. Award winners may receive up to $15,000 toward their tuition and schooling costs.
These scholarships are offered to future Hispanic leaders within their community and range from $2,000 to $5,000.
Career Resources in Business and Communications
LNESC is a nonprofit organization that implements education and leadership programs for disadvantaged youths in America, aimed at narrowing the opportunity gap in leadership positions and careers. Primarily, LNESC focuses on the Latino community, providing leadership courses, scholarships, college tours, and resources for parents, students, and teachers.
GSMF’s mission is to help economically disadvantaged minority students succeed in school, helping them receive the support and the education they need to reach their full potential as community leaders. GSMF functions primarily in California.
Prospanica is aimed at providing educational support, scholarships, and leadership opportunities for Hispanic students interested in leadership and the C-suite.
Resources for Hispanic and Latino Students in Education
Pursuing a future in education is both a noble and potentially rewarding path to take. Educating future generations of students can cultivate a more diverse, accepting, and knowledgeable population, and teachers are on the front lines of this essential cultural development.
As the National Education Association (NEA) noted, while 80% of English language learners (ELL) are Hispanic, only 2.5% of teachers in the U.S. have an English as a second language (ESL) certificate. Other research by NEA has found that having a diverse teaching staff can narrow the achievement gap, even encouraging more minority students to stay with education and continue their studies outside of K-12.
Recognizing this need for a more diverse teaching staff, as well as the unique challenges they may face due to minimal funding in minority areas, the Department of Education has launched multiple initiatives to help promote Latino and Hispanic teacher recruitment, including the TEACH campaign.
For Latino and Hispanic students who may be interested in pursuing a teaching profession, consider these degree programs:
Scholarships for Hispanics and Latinos in Education
Students interested in the TEACH grant must be enrolled in a specific program and be willing to work in areas in need. If students do not follow the guidelines set for the TEACH Grant, it may be turned into a loan. Students may receive up to $4,000 per year.
BOS is available to non-traditional students who understand the value of continued education. The criteria for this award is specific to certain states and colleges, but is needs-based and aimed at helping alleviate the cost of higher education.
The Bright Futures Scholarship Program offers financial assistance to future teachers of early childhood education (age 6 and under). The program can offer up to $1,000 toward a future teacher’s higher education costs.
This scholarship is specific to minority students pursuing an educator degree at 35 approved Florida institutions and planning to work in Florida after graduation.
Career Resources in Education
This organization is aimed at helping all teachers succeed in the classroom, as well as dedicated to providing a quality public school experience to every student. It also regularly releases reports, including one on Diversity in Teaching, as well as provides resources and tips for teachers at all levels of education.
Teaching Tolerance creates resource materials for teachers interested in including multicultural and diverse topics in the classroom, including webinars, research materials, workshops, and other professional development tools such as this resource: Culture in the Classroom. This program was created by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating hate groups and eliminating hate-related behavior and violence.
TCI is a K-12 publishing company dedicated to helping teachers succeed in a diverse classroom by providing curriculum and programs aimed at engaging students.
Resources for Hispanic and Latino Students in Human Services
Pursuing a degree in human services can provide students with a diverse range of career options. The overarching umbrella of human services includes such paths as sociology, criminology, communication sciences and disorders, and much more.
Hispanics and Latinos often have a high exposure rate to criminal justice, but low confidence in the system’s ability to prevent crime and uphold justice, as noted by the Pew Research Center in 2009. Additionally, there is a general lack of diversity within the legal profession, and very few Latino or Hispanic lawyers who can represent people in their own community. Creating a more diverse criminal justice system may help foster more positive relationships for future generations of people in the Hispanic and Latino communities who are often disenfranchised by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Outside of criminal justice, sociology also makes up a large portion of this field. Unlike criminal justice and related majors, sociology often invites a more diverse grouping of students, as was noted in a 2007 study by the American Sociological Association (ASA). Motivations for pursuing sociology can differ based on the cultural background of a student, but the majority of Latino and Hispanic students in the ASA study found that understanding social forces and personal relationships was their main priority for pursuing a degree in sociology, closely followed by a desire to help change society.
For students who are interested in pursuing a degree in human services, consider these various four-year degrees:
- Online Human Services Degrees:
Scholarships for Hispanics and Latinos in Human Services
The HAPCOA Scholarship can award up to $2,500 toward a graduate and undergraduate student’s education.
The George A. Strait Minority Scholarship and Fellowship is reserved for students intending to pursue a career in law librarianship. The award amount is determined based on need and available funds, and the fellowship portion is paid.
This fellowship is reserved primarily for minority students pursuing a doctorate degree and showing interest and commitment to working with a research center.
This grant is reserved for sociology students interested in community-based problems, and seeking to work closely with community organizations or community action initiatives.
Sponsored by the Truth Initiative, this scholarship prioritizes minority students interested in ending tobacco use on college campuses.
This fellowship is reserved for students enrolled in or planning to enroll in a PhD program with the intention of having a career in academia. Students may receive up to $15,000 per year.
This program is reserved for sophomore and junior college students interested in pursuing a career in the hospitality industry.
This scholarship is reserved for minority students in their sophomore or junior year of college who are interested in pursuing a future in the labor union industry. A summer program accompanies the scholarship, and students may receive up to $6,300 for one year.
Career Resources in Human Services
The ASA has many different sections and chapters, and the Latina/o Sociology section is dedicated to studying this group, as well as addressing and researching the unique concerns that Latino and Hispanic people raise. It hosts annual professional, academic, and social/cultural activities to help generate discussions around the unique issues facing this community.
HAPCOA is a national organization that helps those within criminal justice leadership positions and programs select, promote, and retain Hispanic American professionals in law enforcement and criminal justice fields.
NOHCJ is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to promoting high professional standards for agencies and personnel working in criminal justice. It also conducts national seminars, workshops, institutes, and other training programs for those interested in pursuing or already a part of a criminal justice profession.
NLLSA is a not-for-profit corporation that serves Latino students. It is focused on providing a pathway to academic success, and has a coalition-building approach to addressing the unique legal issues facing Latinos around the U.S.
The Metro LALSA serves as a regional support group for legal professionals of Hispanic and Latino heritage, living and working in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.
HNBA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan national bar membership organization aimed at promoting Hispanic and Latino individuals in the legal professions.
Resources for Hispanic and Latino Students in Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Liberal art and social science degrees can provide a whole host of career options for students who pursue these paths. Students can work on becoming anything from a journalist or digital artist to a psychologist or translator. These creative fields also provide a strong structural foundation for students interested in pursuing careers outside the arts, providing them with creative power and the ability to innovate easily. Additionally, research articles have illustrated how liberal arts degrees are highly coveted among tech giants due to these benefits.
Whether students are interested in pursuing the arts or simply gaining the benefits of a general liberal arts study, consider these four-year degree paths in liberal arts and social sciences:
- Online Liberal Arts Degrees:
Scholarships for Hispanics and Latinos in Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
This scholarship program is for undergraduate sophomore and junior Latino students interested in pursuing a career in the media and entertainment industry. There are 10 rewards available, each at $5,000 for one year.
This scholarship is designed to promote diversity within the ALA and all libraries across the nation by helping minority students pursue a graduate degree and achieve a leadership position within libraries.
This scholarship is reserved for women and minority full-time undergraduate students that are interested in pursuing a career in the computer and video game arts industry.
The All Women in Media Foundation offers multiple scholarship opportunities for women interested in pursuing a career in media, journalism, and communications.
CANFIT offers multiple scholarships for minority students interested in health, nutrition, and culinary arts.
This scholarship is reserved for Hispanic and Latino students pursuing a career in the television industry. The award amount is up to $10,000.
Career Resources in Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
NAHJ is dedicated to recognizing and promoting the professional advancement of Hispanics in the news and media industry.
ALLA is a section of the American Anthropological Association, and is dedicated to supporting students and early-career scholars who are practicing anthropological research either by or with members of the Latino community.
NHFA was created to advance the presence of Latino and Hispanic individuals in the arts, telecommunications, media, and entertainment industries.
Resources for Hispanic and Latino Students in Nursing and Healthcare
Healthcare and nursing offer rewarding but demanding careers. Hospitals and clinics will always need caring and compassionate individuals to work with the sick, elderly, and everyday families. Especially in low-income, rural areas where there is a constant nursing shortage, pursuing a nursing or healthcare career can truly benefit the greater community.
Unfortunately, nursing is often lacking in diversity, as over 75% of working nurses identify themselves as white (non-Hispanic/Latino), according to a 2015 reported by Minority Nurse. Hispanic and Latino nurses only make up about 7.5% of the nursing population, in comparison.
Latino and Hispanic students pursuing a degree in nursing and healthcare can help cover the nursing shortage gap, as well as contribute to the growing diversity in the field; which in turn can greatly benefit the patients they serve.
For students who are interested in pursuing a degree in nursing or healthcare, consider these various four-year degrees:
- Online Healthcare Degrees:
Scholarships for Hispanics and Latinos in Nursing and Healthcare
NAHN offers multiple scholarship opportunities for Latino and Hispanic students interested in pursuing a career in nursing.
This scholarship is offered to any student at any level pursuing a degree in nursing or healthcare work, in exchange for agreeing to work in an eligible facility that has a “critical nursing shortage” after graduation.
Similar to the above scholarship, this scholarship is reserved for nursing students who agree to work in eligible underserved areas after graduation.
This program helps students interested in health-related careers receive financial support through college as well as hands-on experience at community-based health facilities and organizations. Award amounts are up to $5,000 per year for three years for undergraduates and two years for graduates.
This scholarship is reserved for minority students in a graduate program who agree to teach in a school of nursing after graduation.
This program can offer up to three years of scholarship assistance to minority nursing and healthcare students interested in working and serving in underserved areas of the country.
This organization offers multiple scholarships, three of which are reserved for minority students pursuing a graduate degree in mental healthcare and addiction counseling.
Career Resources in Nursing and Healthcare
NAHN is a nonprofit representing the voices of Latino nurses across the country.
NCEMNA is a unified force that advocates for the equal treatment and justice in nursing and healthcare for minority populations.
HRSA Bureau of Health Workforce is a government-created organization aimed at providing resources for nurses and healthcare workers in disadvantaged areas. They offer scholarships, grants, and other resources.
NHHF is a nonprofit foundation (previous known as NHMA) that works to develop educational and research activities for the Hispanic community and Hispanic nursing population.
AACN works as a voice for the modern nursing workforce. This page offers a variety of career resources for nurses.
The Mayo Clinic offers an eight-week summer program in the Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ, area for nurses interested in furthering their education with hands-on experience in a diverse population.
Diversity Nursing is an online resource for diverse nurses, offering job listings, education awards, zines, and other resources.
Similar to Diversity Nursing, Minority Nurse offers resources, job listings, and online researched content for minority populations working in the healthcare field.
Resources for Hispanic and Latino Students in STEM
STEM — which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math — is a rapidly growing field in the changing landscape of the job market. The Department of Education (DOE) has placed a priority on STEM education, as the demand for skilled workers in this field will only continue to increase in the coming decades.
As noted by a White House brief from 2015, Hispanic students represent the largest minority group in the public school system, and as demand for STEM-based jobs grows, they have the opportunity to fill these jobs. Already, there is a growing interest among Hispanic and Latino degree seekers in earning STEM-based certificates and degrees.
For students who are interested in pursuing a STEM education, there are a plethora of degrees and related careers that may interest them:
- Online Computer Science Degrees:
Scholarships for Hispanics and Latinos in STEM
This scholarship can award students up to $10,000 for pursuing a degree in a STEM-related field. It is reserved primarily for Hispanic or Latino students, or for any student who can demonstrate strong leadership and service within underserved communities.
This scholarship program is reserved for minority students pursuing an undergraduate degree in chemistry or a related field. Recipients may receive up to $5,000 per year.
This scholarship is reserved for minority students interested in pursuing a degree and career in the environmental profession. Recipients are eligible for up to $5,000 per year.
The APA offers multiple scholarships for students interested in a degree focused on planning (such as civil engineering or architectural planning). The Judith McManus Price Scholarship is reserved specifically for minority students, and recipients can receive anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.
PG&E offers multiple scholarships that range from $1,000 to $10,000 for students pursuing a STEM-related degree. There is also a specific Latino scholarship available for all students who showcase leadership potential within their community.
The SHPE scholarships are sponsored by multiple partners, and each scholarship has its own unique requirements for applicants. The majority of these scholarships require a degree focus in the STEM industry.
NACME offers multiple scholarships and fellowship programs, as well as a block grant, for minority students interested in an engineering degree and engineering career path.
Career Resources in STEM
The SACNAS career center offers job searches and additional resources for Hispanic and Latino scientists.
SHPE is dedicated to empowering the Hispanic community by providing STEM-based educational resources focused on awareness, access, support, and future development.
NACME offers a host of resources for minorities interested in STEM, including a career center, scholarships, corporate support, and partner institutions.
NAMEPA is dedicated to creating best practices in a college or university setting for educating and training the next generation of diverse engineers.